RSS Feed for this Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saratoga Notes

Had to be really impressed with the wins by Alpha and Paynter, even as jaded as I am these days about the quality of the modern thoroughbred.   Not that either are necessarily "great," whatever that means these days; that still remains to be seen.  Don't really know for sure what either one of them beat. 

But they each certainly proved adaptable and tractable; and each would seem to have ample room to improve still.  Alpha was making his first start since the Derby, was running on a sloppy track for the first time, and found himself in an unfamiliar position setting the pace.  Ramon Dominguez helped take it from there, slowing the proceedings down to a crawl (24.90 and 24.73) for the second and third quarters.  This helped allow Alpha to open up some daylight turning for home (24.16 to the 1/8th pole), and then resolutely hold sway in 12.28, turning back the challenge of Neck 'n Neck, who ran well.  The runner-up showed those, such as myself, who thought he could only run fast at Churchill.  Alpha earned a Beyer of 98.

Paynter was off five weeks less than Alpha, but the Belmont hasn't always been a springboard for future success off late.  Unlike in the Belmont and his prior allowance win, Baffert's colt did not break on top this time.   I didn't see the traffic after the start that track announcer Larry Collmus alluded to, just seemed as if Gemologist outbroke him.  It's not however as if Paynter had never run well from off or slightly off the pace, he has.  Just the way he did it here.  It was almost comical seeing how easy he was going under Bejarano while Castellano was flailing away on Gemologist, a colt who Pletcher was talking up big time coming in.  Paynter drew away in a final furlong of 12.64, and earned a whopping Beyer of 108. 

The Toddster was still touting Gemologist afterwards, offering a full-throated defense and an Uncle Mo-ish excuse. 

  “He had a lung infection, a lot of mucus, so we’re going to try and clear him up with antibiotics.....Look at the form, the horses he ran against – he beat Alpha, he beat Currency Swap, he beat Street Life – we know he’s a lot better than that. ” [Daily Racing Form]
   In the 1st on Monday, Dominant Jeannes ($6.20) won for Jason Servis.  This trainer is a high percentage guy - a solid 25%-er - who races mostly in NJ, and actually had only two starters at Saratoga prior to this meet.   Now, he has two winners and a narrowly-beaten second from just five starters at this meet, so worth watching out for him.  Servis claimed this one for 20K from Jacobson in his last, and earned that back plus a little more with this win.

In the third, two-year old  Fly Bye Pomeroy ($27) won his debut for trainer Carlos Martin.  This barn  doesn't win with many first-timers; just five now from 78 tries over the last three years.  But he's done pretty well with them at Saratoga of late.  Last year, Martin had two winners and four seconds from 10 first-time starers; and a winner and a second in as many starts thus far in 2012. 

Another nice-priced Pletcher first-out winner in the 5th; Top Tier Lass ($14.80) dominated and earned a Beyer of 83.  The Toddster now has six winners, two behind leader Chad Brown, who had started 10 less horses going into Monday.  Two-year old filly is by first-year sire Street Boss (2nd in the early rookie sire by earnings list) out of a King of Kings mare who is a half-sister to Stopshoppingmaria, 2nd in the BC Juvie Fillies Turf for the trainer last year.  This is also the distaff family of G1 winners Flashy Bull and Perfect Soul.  Pletcher has won with his last three first-time starters.  He has one in for Wednesday listed as the 9-5 ML favorite in the 5th.  Corail is a Wertheimer homebred by Indian Charlie out of a Twining mare who's a half-sister to A Phenomenon, the Jim Dandy winner we mentioned here just the other day. 

Aforementioned Chad Brown added his 8th winner (from 27 starters) of the meet with La Pernelle ($8.10) in the 7th.  Daughter of Beat Hollow (Sadlers Wells) was wide both turns and seemingly beaten at the eighth pole before surging late with Ramon to prevail in a four-horse blanket finish in which, according to the race chart, no rival was soundly defeated, small consolation I'm sure to those who had one of the other three.  Those of you who think that Durkin is finished might want to check out his call of this race.  "Stymied is she in traffic," he noted of favored Federation in the midst of the chaotic stretch run.

Heard someone last week, perhaps Mr. Serling, mention that Carl Domino is always good for a longshot winner or two, and he did just that in the 10th with Countknickerbocker ($48.60).

11,110 in attendance on the second Monday of the meet.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Morning Notes

Didn't do much handicapping for today due to the uncertainty around which races, if any other than the Diana, would remain on the grass, especially with additional rain in the forecast (which could effect main track conditions too).   [All races are on the turf as of now, surprise!]  The fact that a flash flood warning has been issued for the area from 11 AM Saturday to the same time Sunday cannot be a great sign.  Won't go into my Polytrack spiel here, but I wouldn't be spending quite as much time watching the green blobs with the yellow and red thunderstorm cells move east on

Did take a look at the Jim Dandy.  I'd generally be amenable to trying to beat a horse like Alpha (5-2), as I'm generally inclined to take a skeptical stance on these Triple Crown horses coming back after flopping in the Derby.  This one however looks tough to beat on paper as he seeks to become the 6th Derby starter to win his next start; not only because he simply looks like the class, but also in large part because I think the main contenders are all flawed in this spot.  Neck 'n Neck (3-1) comes in off two triple-digit Beyer romps at Churchill, but all three of his career wins have come over that track, with not that much else to show.  Teeth of the Dog (5-1) has excelled in his one-turn races; Liaison (7-2) has done so on synthetic surfaces.   I had Atigun (8-1) in the Belmont, but that was the Belmont, a race I don't consider to be a harbinger of future performance at standard distances.

A couple of the others look a little interesting to me.  Prospective (12-1) has bounced back from his Derby debacle with two straight wins, and generally has an excellent record in two-turn dirt races not at Churchill Downs.  Fast Falcon (10-1) may be the horse other than the favorite to have the most upside.  He has successfully stepped right up from his graduation with two excellent stakes efforts, and the son of Awesome Again out of a Pleasant Tap half-sister to the G1 winner Pool Land could like the stetchout to two turns.  His trainer Nick Zito is in a Saratoga funk thus far, and hasn't won a race in New York in his last 29 tries.  But I think Fast Falcon and Prospective are two that can provide some value in the exotics.  Of course, if the track is a quagmire, all bets are off and I'll be long onto Del Mar by that point.

 - Two winners for Shug on Thursday.  Sea Island ($33.60) paid that price in her first try around two turns; daughter of Pulpit out of a Pleasant Colony mare is a full sister to Shug's Peter Pan winner Sightseeing. while Abaco ($7.70) is by Giant's Causeway out of the graded stakes winner Cat Cay who, in turn, is out of Cadillacing, the full sister to the great Easy Goer.

Chad Brown now sits atop the trainer standings with five winners from 20 starters after sweeping the late double on Thursday and adding another on Friday.  Lightning Sound ($6.70), who capped off that DD, was taken by Linda Rice for 35k.  Son of Langfuhr brought back $80,000 in three starts (including the claim proceeds) since Brown claimed him for 50K in May for Michael Dubb.  Guess one could grind out a living that way.  Street Life ($6.30) splashed home to win the Curlin on Friday in his first start since the Belmont; he's the second horse from that race to win his next start, the other being My Adonis.

Centring ($3.10) got Tom Albertrani on the board in the 3rd on Friday; Darley homebred is by AP Indy out of the multiple G1 winner Composure.

I know that all the people who'd been pissing money away on Pletcher first-time juveniles must have been thrilled if they didn't have Park City ($15.60), the only first-timer in the 5th; he was 3-1 in the morning line.  He's by Harlan's Holiday out of Pleasant Colony mare, and his second dam is a half to the speedy and ill-fated A Phenomenon, who won the 1983 Jim Dandy for Angel Cordero and Angel Penna (both Jr.).  And with that, we've come full circle, so I'll just say - best of luck and have a great day!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saratoga (Early) Saturday

A couple of the early races, will try to get back with the stakes races at some point:

In the first, Big Screen (5-1) returns to a two-turn dirt route for trainer Tom Albertrani, looking (as of this writing) for his first Spa win of the year (came close with 15-1 Better Lucky in the Lake George on Wed).  Three-year old son of Speightstown has done by far his best running under these conditions, and progressed well in Florida after graduating while keeping some pretty good company.  culminating in a narrow loss in the Calder Derby behind graded stakes placed Good Morning Diva.  Comfortable tossing last two, the one-turn Peter Pan and the grassy Hill Prince, both graded stakes; class relief should suit here.  This Hard Land (15-1) showed major improvement against state-breds in the spring, then disappointed in open company, but may have bounced after two fast races; money prospects here.  Westshore (3-1) ships in and drops in class for trainer James Baker, who is an interesting case.  Barn is just 4 for 46 overall at Saratoga, but three of them came in the last two weeks here last year.  He's one of two horses in this field to have run second in the Curlin.   The other is prospective favorite Raison d'Etat (5-2), the horse to beat off his effort in that stakes here last summer, but he'll be overbet making his first start since January for Mott.

In the 4th, Crown the Chief (9-2) drops from 30K to 20K off the claim for Bruce Levine, who won with his last two starters (as of this writing).  Good off-the-claim barn is five-for 10 when dropping in tag by 50% off a claim, which I know doesn't quite fit the math in this case (one of my very few pet peeves about Formulator is that this is the only available criteria for drops in claim price), but perhaps serves as an indication of his intentions.  Additionally, Castellano, who rode for Contessa last time out, not only sticks around, but jumps off a live contender in Runawayeightyfour to do so.  Beat three of these in that last race, finishing a solid second to class dropping even money favorite The Fed Eased.  Can easily outrun the other speed types based on Moss figs, and has shown ability to sit slightly off the pace as well.  Solid prospects here, though that morning line seems a pipe dream.   Laysh Laysh Laysh (4-1) returns to the David Jacobson barn after a three-year absence.  Thrived for R. Dutrow since then, winning a stakes and narrowly missing in a G2 last year.  Been dropping steadily down the claiming ladder of late though, and does so off the claim here for a barn which surely knows how to place them; would hardly be a surprise if he recaptures his old magic for his old trainer.  Coffee Boy (7-2) ships from CD and also drops, for leading trainer (AOTW) Asmussen.  Been burning quite a lot of money of late and we'll stand against here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Partial Recap

In the first, Mess in a Dress ($14.40) closed like a shot to get up by a nose after she and the rest of the field looked hopelessly beaten by Catalonia.  A lot, if not most of the time at this level, it's only an illusion that a horse is closing that fast, but this filly actually did close pretty quickly, in 12.18 seconds.  In contrast, Catalonia, who got mixed up while changing leads late, stopped to a 13.48 final furlong to inflict one tough beat for anyone who had her at 6-1. 

In the 2nd, Hillswick ($5) earned back $40,200 of the 50K that Jacobson claimed him for at Belmont in June.  First and only winner of the meet thus far for a barn that thrives in the colder weather at the Big A and which has now started 11 horses.   But he did win five races here last year in 27 starts, a respectable percentage, and he's certainly capable any time of the year.

In the 5th, the bettors went back to the Toddster two-year old well despite his 1 for 22 record coming in and the fact that Lucky Friend was beaten soundly (albeit with excuses) at .75 to 1 in her debut.  8-5 this time, she finished 4th again, but this time beaten by 17 lengths instead of 6 1/2.  Well-bet 1st timer Teen Pauline ($6.80) won for Asmussen, 11-3-4-0 on the meet thus far.    She's by Tapit, out of Effectual,  a Carson City mare who won a Grade 3 at two.

Hobbs ($13) got Pletcher on the board in the 6th, wiring the field at a mile on the turf in his first try beyond six furlongs.  Son of Put It Back, out of a Dehere mare, is related to the trainer's one-time Derby hopeful Gemologist (the 3rd dam of Hobbs is the 4th dam of Gemologist), who will make his first start since he flopped in that race when he starts in the Haskell on Sunday. 

  "I thought he breezed as well this morning as he's ever breezed and he's always been a good work horse," Pletcher said afterward. "But he was exceptionally good this morning." []  Doesn't he say that a lot?

Cease ($5.60) went off lower than I'd liked, as the bettors weren't totally fooled by Ruler On Ice (though he did eventually, and seemingly hesitatingly, bet down to 5-2 by post time).  Five-year old gelded son of War Chant is now 3 for 3 at a nine furlongs on the Saratoga main track, so maybe we'll see him in the Woodward at meet's end.  In the old days, perhaps he would have been wheeled right back for the Whitney.  But these ain't the old days.

Nice ride by Leparoux on the Lake George winner Centre Court ($7.50).  I don't know that he had much choice given the horses outside of him, but he at least looked chill sitting towards the inside waiting for room turning for home, and was able to emerge from between horses by the 1/16th pole to get her second graded stakes win in as many starts since graduating in May.  She's by Smart Strike out of the Grade 1 winner Let (AP Indy).

Wednesday Picks

The opener on the first Wednesday of the meet is a ponderous 3yo filly race for 20k claimers.  So ponderous that I actually took a peek to see who Dave Litfin liked in the Form.  I don't generally look at his, or any public handicapper selections; and that's not meant at all as a dis.  I just don't, it's not my thing.  But sometimes if I get really confused,  I'm just fishing for some kind of hook. 

  ANNELLE ran a new top winning Beyer first time off a claim, beating Shebop, who is a four-time winner.  She has been on turf or synthetic ever since. 
  Annelle is the 3-1 morning line favorite, and I'm thinking that ol' Dave just mailed this one in.  As I've said in the past, I can't possibly imagine handicapping every single race every single race day, and I'm sure these guys have to, at times, simply default to one of the favorites when they don't really like anyone.  I'd guess that one could throw darts at the logical choices in those cases and come up with a respectable percentage of winners over an extended period of time.  And again, I'm not trying to be critical, just saying that it's gotta be part of the job just in order to maintain one's sanity. 

So, I don't think that's a serious analysis, and it ain't doing it for me.  Annelle beat a short field in a mile race in March at GP despite lumbering home in 51 3/5 for the last half-mile.  The "four-time winner" thing is particularly weak considering that Shebop won all of those races before the GP race, and most recently ran up-the-track in a conditional 7500 claimer at Penn National.  Trainer Mark Casse is 4 for 41 lifetime at the Spa, 1 for 12 with horses that have gone off at 4-1 or less.  So I'm against Annelle.

And now, since I devoted 317 words to explain why I don't like this horse, you should probably be wheel-barreling cash to the track to bet on it.  As for me, I'll try Mess in a Dress (8-1).  This daughter of Henny Hughes won at this distance in her first race for Jacobson in March, and later ran a couple of seconds with Beyers well fast enough to win here.  She was claimed by Charlton Baker after finishing a distant 4th behind a couple of horses who would similarly destroy this field.  Been off since that May race, but appears to appreciate time between races, and goes here for a good layoff barn.  Looks well-spotted dropping slightly in class, has a bullet work for this, and adds blinkers which will hopefully have her a bit closer to the pace.  Bit of a stretch in a tough race, but 8-1 would do.

In the 8th, Cease (5-2) returns to his favorite distance and to a surface over which he's two-for-two (albeit over sealed off tracks).  Repeats a winning pattern from last year for trainer Albert Stall (a winner from two starters at the meet thus far), returning off a similar-length layoff after a turf race at Churchill.  Should be going well at the finish, perhaps at a better price than his morning line due to the presence of the sluggish 2011 Belmont Stakes winner......(quick, can you name him offhand?)...... Ruler on Ice (8-5), one of my favorite horses in training to bet against.  Schoolyard Dreams (6-1) could be dangerous for R Dutrow and R Dominguez, but his two-turn form on fast dirt tracks just hasn't been that good.   Best of luck, and have a great day.  If you're up there and the weather is nearly as nice as it is down here, you surely will.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Saratoga Monday

9,320 at Saratoga on the 1st Monday, becoming a traditional four-figure attendance day if I'm not mistaken (no, I'm not taking the time to look it up.)   Probably won't have another one of those in decent weather until the final week of the too-long meeting.

Ramon Dominguez followed up his six win day with a winner in the opener for Anthony Dutrow, the leading trainer with three winners in five starters.  The other two were seconds.  Decisive Mood  paid $10.40 coming off an allowance win at Monmouth as the bettors opted for a couple of Churchill shippers instead.  Maybe they were thrown off by the Fractions Unavailable notation on his running line.  This three-year old son of Awesome Again is out of a Gone West mare who's a half-sister to the Canadian 3yo champion Peaks and Valleys; and from the distaff family of the champion turf mare Forever Together. 

Veiled Prophet ($31.60) moved up sharply off the claim for trainer Dominic Galluscio.   Winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez had ridden this horse last time and stuck around for the new connections.  Not saying that as a redboard, as I was at work and not playing....but always a good sign to keep an eye out for.  The rider also took the 3rd on Lady Rizzi ($11.40) for Linda Rice, her first winner of the meet; and the 8th on improbable longshot Grandpa Len ($46)

Churchill shippers ran 1-2 in the 4th; Tiz Sardonic Joe ($13.20) was the second winner from five starters (1 2nd) for trainer Eddie Kenneally.  You might recall that this barn struggled here a bit last summer.  Kenneally is one win from equaling his total of three winners for the entire 2011 meetings, from 26 starters.  Three-year old son of Tiznow is a half to a graded turf winner in Joe's Blazing Aaron (though only 3 for 16 lifetime), and a group stakes placed French horse.

Well, the first of two short-priced Pletcher first-time two-year olds to go down did so in the 5th.  This barn is now 1 for his first 21 and is taking some adoring horseplayers down with him.   Although the Toddster always seems to be on an even keel, it was reported that three hairs were seen blowing out of place as he was leaving the track.  Citizen Emma at least ran well in the 5th, a turf route, but fell short to Da Mi Basia Mille (Pure Prize) ($19.80), second winner of the meet for Clement.   And then, as if making that one even money wasn't enough, the bettors sent Polan off at 3-2 in the 7th.  This one faded to 5th behind Soul House ($14.20), who got off to a bad start and used it to his advantage as he ran down another exhausted field of two-year olds.  And getting back to a point I tried to make in the last post before I screwed it up - just visually, it seems rather apparent that a race on the grass, even at a longer distance, has gotta be far easier on these young horses than the pounding sprint races on dirt surfaces.  The surface is kinder, and they're not either running full out nor getting ridden all out and whipped mercilessly as they tire from their early efforts.  However, briefly, and surely amongst many other factors, people in this sport are way too beholden to tradition to institute real change that could truly make the game less punishing on the animals.

Soul House earned $36,000 for the win, more than twice his purchase price as a yearling at the Spa last year.  He's by Limehouse out of a Stormin' Fever mare, and is inbred 3x4 to Dixieland Band, 4x4 to Secretariat.  (As I've mentioned before, I don't bother mentioning inbreeding to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector because they're so common.)  His 6-1 odds came despite his hailing from the 31% 1st-time starter outfit of Arlington-based trainer Larry Rivoli.  He had a winner from seven starters last year, his entire Saratoga resume, but a sharp 26% over the last year overall, so probably worth keeping an eye on.

Saratogs Notes

Seemed like the Saratoga training title was conceded to Pletcher prior to the opening of the meet.  But, as opposed to some past years when he came flying out of the gate, the Toddster thudded to a 1-for-19 start (coming into Monday....and is there anyone out there who doesn't find the Monday racing at the Spa to be excessive at this point?).  Still, no need to worry if you care about this stuff.  He's only one winner behind a host of others.  And even with a low winning percentage, he can simply overwhelm the others through volume; Chad Brown (2 for 12) is the only other barn in double figures in starters.

His one winner was certainly of the spectacular variety, at least on the Beyer scale.  Two-year old filly Kauai Katie breezed by 12 in her debut on opening day, earning a whopping figure of 100; thus virtually ensuring that she'll be a contender for underlay of the meet when she runs back in the Spinaway.  She's by Malibu Moon our of a turf stakes winning More Than Ready mare; and she's out of the distaff family of the hard-hitting handicap horse Cimarron Secret, who started 49 times, probably more than Kauai Katie and the six fillies she crushed will run in their careers combined.

The rest of Pletcher's balance sheet for the weekend was quite grim; out of the 18 losers, 10 of them went off at odds of 3-1 or less (mostly less, seven at 2-1 or lower).  One of the worst of them was Rose Junction, an effeminately-named son of Dixie Union who checked in dead last as the 2-1 second choice in the Sanford Stakes, an entry-level allowance disguised as a Grade 2 stakes, as most early season juvenile stakes races are these days.  Another thing that these races often are is ugly.  First quarter was sped in 21 3/5, while the final quarter of the six furlong affair took 26 2/5.  I dunno, you dirt guys love this early speed stuff, but I found it a bit painful to watch as Bern Identity ($5.60) managed to stagger home the least exhausted of the bunch.  I know there's a lot of talk about Lasix-free two-year old racing these days.  But maybe, if you're considering the health and welfare of juveniles, one should consider the way they are raced and on what kind of surfaces, rather than what they are racing on.

And, on that topic, this thing with the group of trainers who announced they will not administer race-day Lasix to their two-year olds is not going to last unless every trainer agrees to go along.  You'll have owners who spent six figures on some horse who went 20 seconds flat in their sales show wanting their horses to be faster, and wondering why other trainers can use Lasix while theirs won't.  And you'll end up with trainers who do and trainers who don't, and eventually the whole thing will fall apart when owners shop around in the interest of getting an immediate return on their investment.  Nice gesture, but it won't work. (It was an owners' pledge, stupid mistake on my part.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Looking on the Bright (or Less Dark) Side

A friend writes from Saratoga:  "It's great to be here but also sort of depressing, given the endless stream of bad news. Between Joe Drape and the State of New York, my love for racing is hard to maintain these days."

And it's true, it's tough times for the morale of us horseplayers around here, with the impending state takeover of the NYRA Board, and the steady drumbeat of speculative and repetitive NY Times articles absurdly elevated to front page status.  (Except of course the article on the Senate hearing on doping, which was unprominently placed on the front page of the sports section.  What should have been the holy grail in the Times' campaign to eradicate drugs and medication was clearly not sensational enough for the front page, lacking in horse deaths and trainer intrigue and shenanigans as it was.  Besides, had it been on the front page, Joe Drape probably would have had to report that only one Senator attended the hearing in its entirety with a handful of others drifting in briefly.  And that would surely put a damper on the urgency that the Times has been trying to manufacture.  This is quite obviously not the hot-button issue in Washington that the Times has tried to make it out to be, and it's surely questionable as to whether any federal intervention will ever occur.  And besides, wouldn't the Republicans in the House decry this as excessive government regulation of business?)

But man, it's time for the boutique meetings at Saratoga and Del Mar, my favorite time of the year....and, if everything works out, I'll be lucky enough to make an appearance at both.  So you gotta try and look on the bright side.  Or, at least, try not to dwell too much on the bad side.  With that in mind, let's try the following:

While the Times' series has surely cast a pall on the proceedings, it's my guess that, as far as illegal drugs and medication goes, the sport is no more or less fucked up than it ever has been. In fact, I would hope it's probably not quite as lawless as in the past.  That may or may not be of any consolation to many of you.  Personally though, and as I've mentioned more than once here (while acknowledging that I don't bet as much nor take it all as seriously as some), when I wager my hard-earned money on dumb animals owned and controlled by human beings (who we know as a highly corrupt species), I have no expectations whatsoever that everything is on the up and up.  And nor is that, obviously, a condition for me to participate.  This is a game that has always featured scamps and scoundrels, many of whom have been described throughout the years as 'characters' or 'colorful'; and, I dunno, isn't that all part of the fun?  From my earliest days on the apron at Roosevelt, we were always attempting to figure who's "trying" or not; and it was with a smile that we would yell "JUUUUUICE" as the latest Oscar Barrera. claim would come roaring down the stretch after moving up several levels off the claim.  Even if every drug magically disappeared tomorrow, trainers would still cheat.  Should they be banned for life for running a horse in conditions in which he/she knows it will fail in order to score a big price next time out?

Of course however, if medications, legal or illegal, are causing horses to break down, then that's a different story.  Joe Drape tells us that "many" of the horses who died in the spate of injuries at the Big A over the winter "had been injected repeatedly with pain medication in the days and weeks before their breakdowns."  But that's just another "stat" (though the number is unspecified here) without context, and longtime readers know how I feel about that.  The context is this: Tell me also how many horses who did not break down in those same races in which the deceased animals participated were also receiving the same or similar treatments. At the low level that many of the deaths took place, my educated guess is that the percentages would be similar.  If that number is significantly less for the surviving horses however, then come and tell me about it.  Before then though, keep your meaningless drivel to yourself.  And off the front page of my favorite newspaper, please!

As far as the NYRA Board members who will be appointed after the Saratoga meet goes,  it was highly disturbing to read, in Paul Post's Saratogian piece of July 3, names like Jeff Perlee, who was deeply involved in the Friends of New York Racing/Empire Racing scam, and Sandy Frucher, so highly effective in his stint at NYCOTB.  However, other prospective board members mentioned were solid racing people who would have the best interests of the sport at heart.  Too early to jump to any dire conclusions thus far.

Of course though, with politicians in control, we can expect bad things to happen no matter what the board ultimately looks like.  I'd think there's a decent chance that, after the three years, racing in New York will take place at Saratoga from July 4 through Labor Day and at Belmont the rest of the year.  That would suck, but it's probably inevitable anyway.

But by far the biggest threat to the sport in New York is the reduction or elimination of slots money turned over the tracks and horsemen.  Ominously, we saw some Chris Christie-ian language in a report issued by the Franchise Oversight Board a few weeks ago. 

The board said NYRA must devise a strategy "to end its reliance on VLT subsidies and immediately develop plans on how it will meet this goal." [Bloodhorse]
  However, the composition of the NYRA Board will have nothing to do with this, nor with actions on takeout.  Those matters are written into state law, and would have to be changed by the legislature.  That's a complex matter, with many lawmakers representing districts with racetracks and/or horsemen to consider.  Cuomo can introduce a change in the law, but it's surely unclear how it would play out.

Whatsmore, I think that the change at NYRA will alter the dynamics of the debate.  No longer will NYRA be viewed as a symbol of dysfunction and corruption, everything wrong about racetracks in the state.  It will be the state's creation, presumably completely above board.  No longer will it serve as a whipping boy for politicians and newspaper editorial boards.  With that element removed from the equation, perhaps, and hopefully, the focus can shift to any attempt to reduce VLT revenue as the job-killing measure it would be, and put a more human face on the horsemen and women who would be affected.  Maybe.

We can only hope.  In the meantime, we should enjoy the great racing in beautiful settings, and try not to worry about that which we cannot yet, or possibly ever, control.  So, as Joe Mantegna said in David Mamet's overlooked gem Things Change, "Let's gamble!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Day (1)

In the 9th at Del Mar, the second division of the opening day Oceanside Stakes, Stoney Fleece (4-1) comes off two sharp efforts at Golden Gate.  Rugged three-year old son of Decarchy (Distant View) has just one layoff line to show for his 13 career starts dating back to last August, but seems to be getting better with racing.   Tough loss last out when he couldn't quite catch a sharp Hollendorfer front-runner despite coming home determinedly in 23 2/5 seconds for the final quarter.  He's never run poorly on the grass and has stepped up his Beyers in his last three starts to a level good enough to win this.  Been closer to the pace last two with jockey Kevin Krigger; don't want him too close to expected action up front here.  Think one could do far worse than back this one at his 4-1 morning line for the red-hot John Sadler barn, 8-2-1 with his last 14 starters at the Betfair Hollywood Park meet  My Best Brother (5-1) handled the stretch out to this mile distance seamlessly with a front-running allowance win.  Full brother to Stormello figures to have some company from the inside in this spot, but appears to be the one to catch in his current form.  Holy Candy is the 7-5 morning line favorite off a couple of OK tries to get a piece of the purse in graded stakes on synthetic surfaces; obvious bet-against in first try on grass at that price.